Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Granite State Snowshoe Championships

Photo courtesy of Bear Brook State Park
Sunday I participated in The Granite State Snowshoe Championships held at Bear Brook State Park in Allenston, New Hampshire. I have only been on my snowshoes 3 times this year: one workout, the Beaver Brook Snowshoe race in January, and then this 10K race. I was excited and nervous to participate. I was excited because I wanted to see if I had made any progress with the large jump in mileage over the past month, plus I love racing on snowshoes. I was nervous because this race was a 10K and I have never raced this far on snowshoes and I know it is a much more intensive sport than just running, in fact I have not raced at any event over 5k since my hip surgery  1 1/2 years ago.

I was happy to have finished the Gate City Strider's Freeze Your Buns fifth and final race last week. I was able to finally break 22 minutes and it was the most comfortable I felt racing in the five race series. I just don't have any speed yet in my running, but the endurance part is coming along. I also won my age group for the series. The two guys ahead of me in points did not show up at the previous race in the cold, snowy, and blustery conditions so I was able to surpass them in points even though I never beat them in any race.

Acidotic team before the snowshoe race
photographs courtesy of Gianina Lindsey
With the sudden increase in mileage and feeling that my body is started to heal from the surgery I have begun thinking about doing some trail running and racing and maybe even doing a trail marathon this year (maybe right at this very park!). I also should do more training on my bikes with a possible return to some type of bike racing this summer. Chris Dunn of the Acidotic Racing Team  welcomed me onto that Acidotic team and so I raced for Acidotic at the Snowshoe Championship race. I am thrilled to be part of a team that participates in and organized multi-sports events and appreciate the motto, "Dare Mighty Things." I am looking for new challenges to keep out of getting into a rut and for some team comradery and friendships with the more hard-core athletes on the Acidotic team.

Racers all lined up in a  paceline.
Friday was a snow day in southern New Hampshire, but not as much snow had fallen an hour north of Nashua where the race was to be held. Saturday was a warm sunshiny day, but there was plenty of snow at Bear Brook State Park. I met many new teammates as well as old friends from the past who now race for Acidotic before the race. Nearly 100 snowshoers were lined up for the 10 am start.

The starting line was very cramped as it was not wide at all and I placed myself in the back half of the pack as I knew the race would get to single track pretty soon. After a frantic start where athletes were trying to get positioning, we very quickly hit the single track. Lines of snowshoe racers started spreading out in front and behind me. I wanted to be sure I was positioned correctly. It is hard to pass other races on single track sections so you could lose a lot of ground quickly if you are behind slower racers and if you start out too aggressively and can't hold on to the racer's pacing ahead of you, you can hold a lot of other racers back as they try to get ahead of you. I was more concerned that my conditioning and lack of speed would have me struggling to keep up. I was wrong and I had positioned myself perfectly.

As the pace lines meandered through the woods with its ups and downs and corners, I felt very comfortable with the group I was with. After a mile, I wanted to start passing some racers and every once in a while I would make a break around a slowing racer to gain another position. I remembered how exhausted and winded I was at the Beaver Brook race, but the many miles I had put in since then seemed to be paying off as I did not go into oxygen debt. After a couple of miles of single track, I had worked my way nearer to the front of the group and started thinking of pulling ahead to see where the next pack ahead ahead could be. We hit a section of more open area (maybe a field or pasture) and I was moving ahead of my pack when all of a sudden I realized my left foot felt funny and I looked down to see my snowshoe had fallen off. I was using a pair of Hoka One Ones (which have a substantial foot plant) so I had gone about 20 feet before I realized that foot was lighter. I had to run back and put on my left-behind showshoe. This also happened to me two times in the Beaver Brook Race. It took a little over a minute to get the snowshoe back on and the whole pack that I had been near the lead of had passed me completely. I counted 10 people who went by me. I quickly got back to running, but I certainly lost a lot of momentum and started worrying that the snowshoe might pull off my shoe again.
Leaving the single track and about to hit the pasture area
where I was to lose a snowshoe. I had got right up to
Mariano and Richie Blake at the front of our group. 

It was single track running quickly again before I caught up with the back of the pack so I had to slowly catch up to one person at a time and run behind them for awhile before finding an opportunity to sprint ahead over the deeper ungroomed snow on either side of the trail. Some  racers did move out of the way to let me pass, but it was fun slowly catching one racer at a time.

At about 4 miles we hit more open snowmobile trails, but the going was harder as the snow was soft from the sun. I was able to catch about 5 more racers before we hit the single track again. I kept waiting to feel fatigued, but I actually felt great and enjoyed racing up and down and around all the trails through the woods. It was a beautiful course and it was like running over a snowy roller coastery path. I found that I was better on the uphills and flats and was more conservative with my hip on the downhills (I still don't trust that hip completely). There were two female racers that would start nipping at my heels on the downhills, but I would gap them on the ups. I eventually got behind Mariano Santengelo with about a mile and 1/2 to go and was comfortable following his pacing to the finish. Of course, I had no idea where the finish was. I started seeing the photographers on the course and figured we were getting near, and then I soon heard cheering. We raced through a downhill section and then into an opening where people were cheering and then the finish banner was about 50 yards ahead. It was a great race and I don't think I have had more fun racing on a snowshoe course of the many races I have raced. This is the also first time I did not fall down during a race, so my hip must be getting stronger, although I had a hard time keeping everything lined up throughout the race.

You can view many outstanding photographs of the race by Scott Mason and Joe Viger. I saw Scott twice during the race and he was moving into a new position both times and didn't get a photo. Both of there albums are filled with great action shots of the snowshoe race and you can see how much fun you are missing if you haven't tried snowshoe racing. The race winners were Jim Johnson and Kristina Folcik. Snowshoe racing is still an emerging sport and not enough runners and other athletes have caught on, but the fun we have at races reminds me of road racing in the 1970s and triathlons in the 1980s.

Bear Brook State Park also took some photos of the race.

Here are my workouts for the past two weeks:

Monday 2/25 15 miles treadmill (longest treadmill run in over 15
years. I did a few 16 milers on a former treadmill)
Tuesday 2/26 5 miles treadmill
Wednesday 2/27 11 miles treadmill
Thursday 2/28 4 miles treadmill (hoped to do 10 to hit 200 miles for the month, but realized I was tired and starting to fight a cold so stopped)
Friday 3/1 0 miles
Saturday 3/2 0 miles
Sunday 3/3 3 miles Freeze Your Buns 5K 21:54 first time under 22 minutes since hip surgery
Total miles week 39 miles
Total miles 2013 295 miles
Total miles January 97 miles
Total miles February 194 miles (doubled January's total)

Monday 3/4 5 miles treadmill
Tuesday 3/5 8 miles roads
Wednesday 3/6 0 miles
Thursday 3/7 10 miles treadmill
Friday 3/8  0 Miles
Saturday 3/9 6 miles Granite State Snowshoe Championships 10K
Sunday 3/10 8 miles roads
total miles week 37 miles
total miles 2013 332 miles


Sue said...

Excellent, Jim!

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks, Sue. It was fun!